Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Scrabble Bowl

I was at the local dollar store (one of those discount stores which specialize in overstock, remainders, etc., all priced at a dollar) and I saw a book of puzzles based on the board game Scrabble. Scrabble is one of my favorite games, a word game, a crossword puzzle game. The most cutthroat game of Scrabble that I ever played was a three-way game played when I was studying gamelan in Java, Indonesia; one afternoon we played, allowing words from the languages we all had in common, English, Dutch, Indonesian, and Javanese; I lost, badly, but it was a real exciting game.

I had the idea to pay a bit of artistic homage to Scrabble, so I picked up a couple of the puzzle books and brought them home, to make a papier-maché art bowl.

Each page of the book has a Scrabble board image with some words filled in, and clues to finish the puzzle.

Now, I normally highly revere the published book. I would never cut one up or tear it apart. Such feelings have had nearly the force of a taboo in my life, before. I have thought about participating in a "hurt book" library art-book show such as that which has been sponsored in past by the San Francisco Public Library. Hurt books are books that have been damaged by accident, or through the malice or idiocy of some borrower, and when reacquired by the library are often damaged beyond repair, no longer able to be circulated. In hurt book art shows I have seen, the library has given damaged or nearly destroyed books to artists, who have then sculpted them, altered them, made them into beautiful art pieces. Some art pieces show as much reverence for the physical fact of a published book as I often feel; others are more whimsical, others abstract.

To make this Scrabble bowl, I cut up an entire thrift-store Scrabble puzzle book and used the game-board pages to make the bowl. Since I normally revere the printed book, even one as cheap and throw-away as this one, it took me a few moments to talk myself into cutting it up. Call it practice for getting past a personal taboo: if a destroyed book were in fact given to me in future, I could more easily make it into sculpture. The idea of book-sculpture appeals to me, and if such an opportunity appeared, I would make use of it. Eventually, we always make art out of things we love.

This papier-maché bowl made from the thrift-store Scrabble puzzle book had some challenges. The paper is as thin as newsprint, although it is white instead of unbleached newsprint. I had to use the entire book to make enough thickness of layers to make the bowl sturdy enough when dried. There are 4 or 5 layers of paper throughout this bowl, from edge to base. The paper tore easily when wet, so I had to be careful at times when laying out the sheets in the mold. Some tore anyway. But I got into making patterns with the layout, and I like the result, which is both chaotic and regular in image and form. I could have used more glue in the glue-water matrix for making the bowl, as some of the outer layers of the bowl's base were loose when I removed the bowl from the mold, while it was still slightly wet. I was able to tack them down, though, with more matrix, and they re-attached themselves fairly well as the bowl dried.

When I find an old Scrabble game at a thrift store, if it only costs a dollar or two, I pick it up. I like to use the wooden letter tiles from the game to make poems and other little phrases that I lay out, then take photos, the way some people play with magnetic letters to make poems on their refrigerators. For example:

So I pulled out one set of letter tiles from one of my surplus Scrabble games and filled up the bowl. I might add another set to the bowl, eventually.

It will be fun to have this Scrabble bowl full of tiles sitting around on hand, so I can put together a poem or phrase anytime I feel like it, in future. And the bowl itself could become quite the conversation piece, if placed out where guests might notice it, say, in the living room. Anybody who likes Scrabble or word-games might enjoy playing around with this bowl and its contents.

At the thrift store there were also puzzle books of Sudoku and similar word and number games. A Sudoko bowl might also be interesting to make in papier-maché, as an experiment. Who knows, this might be the start of a series.

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Blogger Glenn Ingersoll said...

Bowl for a word party!

11:19 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...


Maybe every writer ought to have one. Might inspire.

12:55 AM  
Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

By far the best one yet.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Well, I'll grant that as far as "themed" bowls go, it's the best one yet, in terms of form following function. But there are others that are more purely attractive, and beautiful. This one was fun, though. It seems guaranteed to appeal to wordsmiths.

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Danny said...

my mother would love this Scra-bowl!

11:53 PM  

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